Years ago, when my wife and I moved here, Redwood City seemed an ideal place in which to raise children. In addition to its many wonderful public parks, Redwood City had countless other places where, together as a family, we could have fun. Malibu Golf and Games was a particular favorite, and played host to multiple birthday parties. As my children aged, the next-door Malibu Grand Prix gave them their first driving experience. And then there was the Redwood Roller Rink, the Nazareth Ice Oasis and Mel’s Bowl. Not to mention Redwood City’s movie houses, including the Century Park 12 and the UA Redwood 6.
While my children were able to enjoy all of these, sadly most are gone now. The UA Redwood 6 closed shortly after our move to Redwood City. In late 2008, the Century Park 12 theaters followed suit — although by then the downtown theaters were operating, making up for that particular loss. Mel’s Bowl was torn down in 2013, leaving Redwood City without a bowling alley. At the same time, the Malibu complex was closed and, a year or two later, completely razed. The year 2017 saw the closure of the Redwood Roller Rink. And as for the Nazareth Ice Oasis, thanks to a recent article in the Daily Journal I learned that it may be on the brink of closing for good.
With all of these losses, a lot of what made Redwood City a particularly fun place for my entire family is now gone. At least we still have theaters, and Redwood City’s many parks are if anything better than ever. And I suppose there is always Chuck E. Cheese.
Most if not all of our losses are due to new housing and office projects. Thus, it seems only fitting that at long last some of our newly proposed developments include features specifically for youth or that enable family-friendly activities. While these won’t make up for everything we’ve lost, at least they’re a step in the right direction.
Recently I met online with the folks from Greystar to talk about their South Main Mixed-Use project, a large office, residential and retail development they are hoping to construct on several blocks that today largely house Towne Ford, Hopkins Acura, Main & Elm restaurant and the now-shuttered Redwood Roller Rink. Since the project’s introduction, it has been modified several times to reflect city and community input. Not only has Greystar altered the project’s balance between housing and office space, it has also substantially enlarged the project’s main retail space — now intended for a yet-to-be-determined “family-oriented entertainment/retail” business — making it about the size of the city’s former roller rink.
The mixed-use project intended for the AutoZone site has also changed based on city and community input. As originally proposed, this project included 20 to 30 on-site affordable apartments, but the recent addition of the nearby A-1 Party Rentals & Events site to the project has enabled the developer to propose constructing an off-site 60-unit all-affordable building instead. One element of the project that has not changed, though, is the two-story teen center intended for the corner of El Camino Real and James Avenue. Although the services this center would provide have yet to be fully fleshed out, undoubtedly it would provide area teens with a safe space to hang out.
Finally, Redwood City’s zoning administrator recently approved a new venture, Contender eSports, for the old Brick Monkey retail space on Broadway at Winslow Street. This new electronic gaming establishment will include a small private party room and a parent lounge (parents must accompany kids younger than 14) in addition to the main gaming area. Players of all ages will sit at dedicated gaming consoles and either play individual games or take part in multiplayer video game competitions. Although consoles will normally be rented by the hour, the business also intends to host birthday parties.
Approval in hand, the eSports establishment is likely to be up and running fairly quickly. Although Greystar’s South Main Mixed-Use project will go before the Planning Commission Oct. 6 and before the City Council Nov. 9, even if approved the project would take years to build, given its size. Finally, the 901 El Camino Real (AutoZone) project has yet to be formally submitted to the city, much less considered for approval, so that project’s teen center is also years away from opening — assuming it ever does.
Redwood City likes to think of itself as the “premier entertainment destination on the Peninsula.” At one time, this sentiment was probably true, but you’d have a hard time making a case for it today. While these new ventures would add to Redwood City’s stock of family-friendly entertainment, they would only slightly make up for the many losses the city has incurred over the past few decades.
Greg Wilson is the creator of Walking Redwood City, a blog inspired by his walks throughout Redwood City and adjacent communities. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow Greg on Twitter @walkingRWC.